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Crazy Helpful Recycling at the Office

By Anna Madrona, February 26, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Anna Madrona

I’m a stuff magnet.

If my outer world reflects my inner world, I’ve got a dozen lifetimes ahead of me before I reach Nirvana.

But when I’m ready to part with it, I know exactly where to take my stuff so that it can continue in its next incarnation.

A lot of times, I take it to the office! At Whole Foods Market, we’re diligent about our recycling and resource recovery efforts. And here at the global office, a huge thanks goes to our Green Mission Team for continually creating new partnerships that allow us to recycle even more stuff.

I have a box by the back door of my house where I’ll toss dried-up pens, scratched CDs, wine corks, bottle caps, spent gift cards and inkjet cartridges. Once a week I bring the box into work. By my desk, I have a box to stash assorted recyclables generated through the day like spent Sharpies, drink bottles, take-out containers and apple cores.

When my work is done, I take this box to the break and copy rooms and spend a minute or two sorting my catches of the day into bins and containers.

ere’s what I can recycle or send on to a new use at work: bubble wrap, cardboard, paperboard, paper, #1 – #7 plastics, batteries, corks, bottle caps, yogurt cups and water filters, computers (once a year during the annual electronics drive), cell phones, inkjet cartridges, CDs and gift cards — oh, and food waste for composting.

The latest cool program allows us to upcycle pens and pencils through Terracycle’s Writing Instruments Brigade. With 600+ Team Members in the building, we do have to limit what folks can bring into the office from home (small items like corks and cartridges are easy). We didn’t get to this point overnight, though.

It has taken many years to develop relationships with non-profit organizations and recycling and reuse partners, to change Team Member behaviors in the office, to work with municipal recycling programs and to find outlets for reusing complex electronics like cell phones and computers.

Is your office ready for setting up (or expanding) reuse and recycling efforts? Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Find a few like-minded co-workers to help you brainstorm the best places to start — and to help with educating the workforce and organizing drives.
  • Be patient. Behavior change takes time. Your co-workers generally want to do the right thing.
  • Kick off your renewed efforts by offering co-workers the option of a smaller office waste can.
  • Conduct a waste audit before you start your new efforts so that you can see how you improve over time.
  • Choose reuse and recycling programs that make sense for your industry and for your office — if you’re a paperless office, don’t set up paper and pen recycling programs!
  • Work closely with your facilities and office services teams. They’ll be critical for helping to work out viable processes, especially with any janitorial teams.
  • Keep recycling materials centers tidy to encourage continued company participation.
  • Work with leadership to help fund compost and recycling pick-up with private companies if your municipality recycling program doesn’t service businesses.

Have you helped set up enhanced recycling in your office or workplace? What has worked well for your organization?




Nina C says ...
Just wanted to thank you for such a great article, Anna! :)
02/27/2012 2:28:45 PM CST
Meaghan says ...
Great article! What are you doing with your bottle caps? I work at SO-NRL in Raleigh, and we are in the process of getting TerraCycle in our store in the next week. We also recycle batteries, corks, and #1-7 (#5 Gimme5 program)
03/01/2012 6:19:59 AM CST
sheila b says ...
meaghan, i'm in winston salem and i save my bottle tops for my mom who takes them to scrap exchange in durham. haven't been there yet but heard very cool place that uses/sells all sorts of recyclables (including leftover wrapping paper) and have art classes, etc. excited for my first visit! amazing article, thanks!
03/03/2012 3:12:06 AM CST
Amy says ...
Please tell us more about the cd recycling you mentioned in the article. I'd love to be able to recycle some of the many cds that I have to get rid of...many are too scratched to play. Thanks and great article!
04/04/2012 4:49:14 PM CDT
Paul Heathman says ...
This is really inspiring. As our office grows we will find every opportunity to shrink our footprint. I was in a Neo Burrito in Asheville, NC today. They really impressed me with their use of rainwater.
03/03/2012 8:42:03 PM CST
Megan says ...
@Amy We use Green Disk for our CD recycling. You can learn more on their website <a href="http://www.greendisk.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">here</a>!
04/06/2012 1:18:26 PM CDT